Artist Transforms Old Ring Boxes into Amazing Dioramas!

Dejeuner sur l'herbe, 2013, Mixed Media, 3.25"x2.5"x3"

Dejeuner sur l'herbe, 2013, Mixed Media, 3.25"x2.5"x3"

As I poked around the artist's studios on the 3rd floor in Pioneer Works with some friends visiting from out of town, I came across a table with empty ring boxes, curious, I got closer to take a look. "Why are all of these ring boxes lying around?" I wondered. As I looked around the studio, I noticed a work in progress, and I realized that this artist was creating incredible, highly detailed dioramas within the ring boxes. 

Who's studio was this? Who was making these intricate pieces of art? As I looked around some more I found a description on the wall that told me that Curtis "Talwst" Santiago is a Canadian-Trinidadian artist working in mixed media and performance practices.

Curtis "Talwst" Santiago in his studio at Pioneer Works, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Curtis "Talwst" Santiago in his studio at Pioneer Works, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Talwst is currently engaged in his ongoing and prolific infinity series of miniature dioramas in reclaimed ring boxes. An exploration across cultures and time periods, these works aim to draw attention to absent or misinterpreted narratives, suggest the non-linear complexities of history, and explore relationships between cultures. He has produced a number of sub series in this format that focus on themes such as inserting marginalized narratives into art history and drawing parallels between disparate cultural histories. 

Curtis "Talwst" Santiago at work in his studio at Pioneer Works, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Curtis "Talwst" Santiago at work in his studio at Pioneer Works, Red Hook, Brooklyn

According to Talwst, he got the idea to create these miniature theaters when a street vendor in Paris handed him an old ring box one day and said: “I want to see you do something with this.”

Talwst took that antique ring box and transformed it into a seaside scene featuring a woman in a black, vintage swimsuit.  From that experience, the idea was born: “I want the viewer to open the box and feel they have been transported to another world,” he says. 

Wet Dream, 2008, Mixed Media, 2"x2.5"x2.75"

Wet Dream, 2008, Mixed Media, 2"x2.5"x2.75"

Viewing Talwst's works takes you on a journey into a myriad of differently themed worlds, ranging from a revisionist historical scene, to science fiction TV show, to a global warming awareness scene, to an ode to famous painters. Every ring box presents a unique, inspiring and painstakingly detailed story.

As Talwst shares: “The work’s small scale allows me the opportunity for a very particular kind of meditation. The overarching theme is related to time and space; to my sense of the vastness and the fragility of the world which I inhabit; and my fleeting memories of this world.”

Errrbody Loves McDonalds, 2014, Mixed Media, 3.75"x2.75"x3.5"

Errrbody Loves McDonalds, 2014, Mixed Media, 3.75"x2.75"x3.5"

"In this work I wanted to play the role of court jester, like Banksy or Maurizio Cattelan, in a surrealist comedy piece poking fun at Dutch landscapes." - Talwst
Space Family Rothschild, 2011, Mixed Media, 4"x4"x4.5"

Space Family Rothschild, 2011, Mixed Media, 4"x4"x4.5"

"This is inspired by a roommate who was obsessed with conspiracy theorist David Icke, who believes that the Rockefellers and Rothschilds are extraterrestrials. I don’t subscribe to Icke’s theories." -Talwst
Summer in Winter, 2013, Mixed Media, 3"x2"x2.5"

Summer in Winter, 2013, Mixed Media, 3"x2"x2.5"

Frolic, 2013, Mixed Media, 3"x2"x2.5"

Frolic, 2013, Mixed Media, 3"x2"x2.5"

Started From the Bottom Now We Here pt1, 2013, Mixed Media, 9"x2"x2.5"

Started From the Bottom Now We Here pt1, 2013, Mixed Media, 9"x2"x2.5"

Started From the Bottom Now We Here pt2, 2013, Mixed Media, 9"x2"x2.5"

Started From the Bottom Now We Here pt2, 2013, Mixed Media, 9"x2"x2.5"

El Torero, 2013, Mixed Media, 3"x2"x2.5"

El Torero, 2013, Mixed Media, 3"x2"x2.5"

"This is an ode to Edouard Manet, one of my favourite painters. It’s a take on his 1864 painting La Muerte del Torero." -Talwst
Rough Trade, 2014, Mixed Media, 2.75"x2.55"x1.77"

Rough Trade, 2014, Mixed Media, 2.75"x2.55"x1.77"

Nubian Origin Story According to Artist, 2014, Mixed Media, 3.5"x3.5"x3.5"

Nubian Origin Story According to Artist, 2014, Mixed Media, 3.5"x3.5"x3.5"

If you want to see more of Talwst's work, check out his website here: http://talwst.com/

If you're in NYC right now, he's still in residence at Pioneer Works, check him out there while you can. 

Written by Rajmani Sinclair

June 30, 2016